Triggernometry – Seconds That Can Save Your Life

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by Jim Higginbotham
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Seconds that Can Save Your Life

There is only one type of shooting competition that only has a trophy for second place. The trophy is generally made of granite, has an epitaph inscribed on it, and when it is awarded to you, you are surrounded by everyone you love, crying their eyes out because you are dead. It’s called a tombstone.

A gunfight is a competition, but it isn’t a standard shooting competition like those you see in timed shooting sports. Speed is a factor, but it isn’t the only factor. And there will always be factors outside of your control, such as the physical and mental state of the threatening party, his competence, how well we shoot under the pressure of a gunfight, and what we are doing while engaging our adversary to keep from getting shot (or cut, or bludgeoned, etc.).

Some things, however, you can control, or at least prepare to control, and many of these involve speed and can be practiced. They are how fast you are able to present your weapon, how fast you can fire it accurately, and how fast you can reload when you are out of bullets or in danger of soon being out of bullets.

Wyatt Earp, one of the most famous gunfighters of all time, is quoted as saying: “Take your time…but be quick about it! He is also quoted as saying something to the effect of “Fast is fine but accuracy is final”. The interplay between these two factors, speed and accuracy, is one reality we must always recognize, the faster you go the less accurate you are.

Perhaps the best known articulation of this relationship is a term coined by Jeff Cooper known as “DVC”. Using the first letters of the Latin words for Accuracy, Power and Speed ( Diligentia, Vis and Celeritas ), Col. Cooper codified these elements all being co-equal. The fastest shot is not going to achieve anything if it does not hit. The fastest hit does not achieve anything if it is not hard enough to take the threat out of the fight – or the fight out of the threat, if you will. We have covered the power and accuracy aspects of DVC in prior columns, and now we will talk mostly about the speed element, though as col Cooper noted, the three are fundamentally joined at the hip.

I have been blessed to know many world class gunmen, some of whom are gifted instructors. I soak up wisdom from these folks as often as I can. One such man I highly regard is fond of saying that he never saw a stopwatch during a gunfight, while another, equally wise, is noted for saying that there is a “clock” in every fight. Sounds at odds does it? Well actually they are both right!

The first is something of an answer to the world of pure timed shooting competition where 1/10ths of a second matter. This month there is an article from SSG Travis Tomasie from the United States Army Marksmanship Unit. He is one of these world class competitors who move so fast in shooting and reloading that 1/10th of a second makes a huge difference between winning and losing. Tenths add up over several strings that are summed and often the competitors are so close that one of those tenths decides the winner.

This thinking, about tenths of a second, though, will never be something that we talk about for real gunfights. There are just too many other factors involved that have far more impact on your chance of survival and to say that any gunfight was won or lost over any fraction of a second would be foolhardy.

The other statement, that there is in fact a “clock” in every gunfight, suggests that seconds do count in a gunfight, or even, in rare instances, fractions of a second – but recall it takes 28/100ths of a second to blink your eye. Because when the rubber meets the road, you only have as long as it takes the attacker (who started this fight to begin with, remember) to strike a lethal blow. To be sure, we do not know precisely how long that is, and no matter the gunfight, the clock is ticking. We can however make some educated guesses as to how long that is and what range you should be trying for when it comes to practicing your draw as regards speed vs. accuracy.

Situational Awareness and the Two Second Rule

A huge factor in this, and another area in which Jeff Cooper excelled at mastering as a topic of instruction, is the level of awareness and mental preparation possessed by the combatants. You may be able to draw and fire multiple rounds accurately in half a second but that will do you no good if you don’t know you are in a fight for the first 2 or 3 seconds of it.

We will assume that you are not starting the gunfight. That puts you at odds with that clock that may actually be in your gunfight, because your adversary is presumably going to “draw first”. But you can even those odds by trusting your instinct that a gunfight could possibly occur. This gives you the ability to free your gun of clothing or protective coverings, and either covertly or overtly placing a hand on your gun so that your draw can be expedient and without fumbling. Finding immediate cover would be step 2, and it most likely is not a step that your adversary will be bothered with. Both of these factors are what we call “situational awareness.” It is all about when that clock starts for real, and when you are aware that it started and can begin preparing for your gunfight.

In order to get better at a skill we have to be able to measure it. As I’ve mentioned in other installments, I feel that a shot timer from Pact or another maker is a worthwhile long term investment. Unlike a stopwatch you can use them alone and they are no longer cost prohibitive. A good timer will also have shot to shot comparisons and other functions that you could do with a calculator and stopwatch, but that you probably won’t. A stopwatch is fine though. A quarter of a second here and there is not going to make a difference in your ability to measure your progress.

There is ample evidence that a .357 Magnum JHP through the lungs will not disable your adversary in five seconds, more like 20-30. So the “clock” is still running even after you shoot. What you do after firing will make more of a difference than a fraction of a second in your draw or reload. Time does not stop when the shot breaks (as would be indicated on a timer) but when the shot takes effect! That can be extremely problematical! It also means that precise results cannot be predicted. you need to be doing something besides standing still and getting shot or cut while you deliver your round.

For many years I have referred to this need to be expeditious in a fight as “the two second rule.” I am perhaps guilty of being over generous but it seems a good general rule of thumb. Anything you do during a fight (as opposed to between fights or after fights) should probably be completed in 2 seconds or less to be of any value to you. Even then it is just as well if you incorporate some defensive tactics with any of these operations. Please note I am not saying you will always have two seconds, but you should not count on having more than two seconds to get a particular task done.

The Presentation

You have to move in a gunfight in order to give your response some time to have an effect. Even in the small space of an indoor range this draw and fire can be practiced, and even ten minutes a week will give you a definitive edge should the need for a real unavoidable gunfight arise. Click Here if you can’t see the video.

Commonly referred to as the draw, I rather like the term Presentation since you will not always be drawing the weapon. It’s a sticky situation that leaves you needing to draw your handgun fast to save your life. But you need to practice this. Even with acute situational awareness people get jumped, and if someone gets the drop on you a quick and succinct draw is the only thing that can get you out of the mess you are now in.

As many gunfight survivors (who survived by skill other than luck) have pointed out, the fastest draw starts with the gun in hand. Many times if you see a problem developing in advance you can simply avoid it. Do yourself a favor and ARRANGE TO BE SOMEWHERE ELSE! Other times you may not have that option but do have the ability to get your weapon into hand unseen or noticed.

This is not a “how to” article on drawing the weapon. There are so many holster, pocket and other modes of carry that suggesting a given draw strategy would only be productive for the people who carry like me. This is meant to be just a consideration of the time frame you should be working towards in your draw, or presentation.

Again, 1/10ths of a second don’t matter on the street. Unfortunately bullets are not as effective as those in the movies. People are not instantly thrown backwards when shot (indeed many times they fall forward) – that is IF they fall at all. In many instances they just go on for quite a while as if they did not know they had been shot, because in many cases they don’t know they’ve been shot.

I spent years developing a fast presentation, a fast reload and my rapid fire skills. While I don’t feel it was a total waste of time, age and the study of lethal encounters has certainly taught me that it is not always the fastest guy who wins. As my good friend Evan Marshall says; “You don’t have to be fast, you have to be first!” – meaning the one who strikes the first truly effective blow will prevail. Ties are not acceptable in our business. Please see my previous articles about shot placement and other factors that will be just as important to your gunfight as is speed.

So, what is a worthy goal in presenting the weapon? First let me say emphatically, that unless you are a police officer, a deployed soldier or you live in an open carry state where you actually open carry, how fast you can draw a weapon from open carry is irrelevant. This adds up to about a 1/2 of a percent of all of us who carry guns every day.

Second, let me also stipulate that there are viable alternative methods of carrying a handgun that may not be quite as fast. Those who use these methods are consciously making the decision, based on their personal circumstances, so they accept that they may not be as fast. In the interest of space I will be talking about strong side concealed carry here, but it is relevant no matter what you mode of carry. Remember that situational awareness is going to get your head and your body into the fight quicker, which can more than make up for even a deeply concealed weapon.

There are so many factors involved, such as age, physical condition, the type clothes one wears, etc., that I am reluctant to place a “pass / fail” time on this. However one of the first instructors I studied under did come up with a good benchmark. By research he came up with the figure that it takes 1.5 seconds for the average sized male to cover a distance of 21 feet and slit your throat with an edged weapon. His name is Dennis Tueller and the drill named for him is used in many court cases to prove that one is justified in shooting for his life at that distance against an attacker armed with a knife.

The problem is that this is a time frame which shows justification, it is not, as some seem to mistakenly believe, a guarantee that being able to draw and fire within 1.5 seconds will stop the fight! Remember, a hit to the lungs with a full powered .357 does not guarantee a rapid stop!

The biggest mistake I see with people who practice their draw and fire is that they stand still, as if they are a competitor in a competition on a shot timer. The timer is fine as I have explained, but you have to be doing something else while you draw the gun, and even the speed master must do this – that is MOVE! If you stand still in a fight you will attract bullets or blades or bludgeons.

Don’t practice the way you would for a competition, ever.

If you are carrying a gun for the purpose of not bringing a knife or a stick to a gunfight you might find yourself unavoidably in, practice your presentation with your head in a gunfight. Step to the side as you draw. If you are at an outdoor range and you have the ability to draw while taking sidesteps, do that. Think about movement, not just speed. It is irrelevant how fast you can draw standing in one place. And forget that 1/10 or 1/4 of a second makes a difference.

“To save half a second and miss the spine by half an inch may cost you half a minute” and hence your life!

Marksmanship

As I said above, the faster you shoot the less accurate you will be. It is part of the “DVC” Marksmanship Triad. You have to find the balance and indeed you will have to find a balance for a wide variety of situations.

We have covered in prior articles choosing a gun that packs enough punch, and you have been given some benchmarks for what you should shooting for with accuracy, and now we have addressed time in detail.

5 shots in 1.03 second from the Low Ready, shot on the move, including reaction time You can subtract time to the first shot for “Ed McGivern Timing”

Typically, a defensive situation will arise at 5 to 10 feet – that is right feet! One might think that anyone would have enough accuracy to meet the standard but that might be a fatal assumption. Even a dying aggressor can kill or maim you while he is dying. To prevent that we have to achieve the near impossible. That is to hit the Central Nervous System hard enough to stop the fight “right now”!

The trouble is that I don’t know anyone who can guarantee doing that every time. Sure we could hit a target the size of the upper spine. The trouble is the location is concealed and covered with a foot or more of flesh and bone. The head moves around too much and is too armored to be the prime target, it is a “fall back” option at best. And even a well directed bullet sometimes does not go straight when it strikes various materials.

So we must shoot like they vote in Chicago; repeatedly and often! This is where speed comes in. You have only a certain amount of time to get the job done – that is until the attacker kills you! It may be one second it may be five but we do not know. So obviously the faster you can get hits that have a chance of hitting the Central Nervous System (CNS). With each shot not only do the odds of hitting the CNS – stopping the fight instantly – go up but each successive hit increases the loss of blood so we are at least accomplishing something. Hits to the fat roll don’t count, and even lung hits don’t really count. The CNS is the only thing that ends the fight, and you have to keep shooting until you hit it, or until the rest of your efforts take a summed cumulative effect with successful results.

A good benchmark – 4 to 5 shots per second (not including reaction time) IF you can hold a 5” group or less. Your PACT timer is a great tool for analyzing this; it will result in split times (the time between shots) of around ¼ second. Again we don’t want to get preoccupied with petty increments but it should be noted that 5 shots is 25% more likely to get the job done than 4 when trying to hit a small target. That is IF you are holding a reasonable sized group. 5 shots that cover 10” in 1 second is NOT better than 3 shots that cover just 5 inches in the same time!

Reloads

There are volumes of material out in the wide world of print magazines and the internet suggesting that most gunfights are over in under a few seconds with less than five bullets fired. In my experience and through years of research this is not most commonly the case. Granted, a lot of gunfight data comes from law enforcement and the military where at least one of the combatants is under some sort of oath to not only be in the gunfight, because it is their job, but also to finish it. Is the data skewed so much that this is not a concern for civilian gunfight science? Not in my experience, and it is not a chance I choose to take.

We would like to think that reloads don’t matter but just in the last year I have had three students who’s skill at “running the gun” saved their lives. Two of these were in fact military, so one might reasonably think this might be a bit unusual on the street. That would in general be true. Lengthy gunfights are not the norm even for law enforcement. But one of these examples was in the civilian world. The situation arose from a combination of factors but just goes to show that anything can happen.

This is an example of encountering a new threat in the middle of a planned magazine change. It is a fatal mistake to drop your magazine before the next one is up and next to the gun. Click Here if you can’t see the video.

When it comes to changing magazines or reloading a revolver again we see often that people train as if they are in a competition. They will obsess about small increments of improvement, but they end up becoming skilled at a process that will not increase their survivability in a real life gunfight. Competitors time their reloads from shot to shot with a reload in between, as that is how they are scored in competition. This sometimes leads to something we call “practicing getting killed” unless careful thought is applied.

Normally reloads are done after a fight (or between fights and you just don’t know when the next one starts). If you find yourself out of ammo and the bullets are still flying you probably won’t have time to reload if you are in the open, though it does indeed rarely happen. Remember, normally we are doing this from concealed carry and hopefully behind cover. You are not likely to perform the competitor’s 1 to 1.5 second reload with street gear. This is just one of the reasons I advocate a serious back up gun (B.U.G.) which is not buried so deep you cannot draw it fast (deep concealment is a “hideout” gun – HOG). It should be chambered for just as powerful a cartridge as your primary! Realize that if you are drawing your BUG then things are really bad!

But let’s stick to reloads. The important time is the time the weapon is not loaded. One reason I stress to folks that if it can be avoided do not ever run your gun dry. The principle is “reload when you can, not when you MUST!” An empty gun not only takes longer to reload it often malfunctions when the operator is under pressure. Once one examines the process in detail he begins to realize that it is not the shot to shot time that is important. If he is exposed to fire during that time then he is going to catch a bullet whether he is a duffer that takes 3 seconds to reload or a Grand Master that takes 1 second. What is important is that he stays ready to fight the next fight – or the next part of this one.

Keep your head up and keep scanning for threats. Do NOT point your muzzle straight up into the air or block your vision. It is perfectly OK to glance at the weapon briefly if you need to but you should practice reloads in the dark just to be sure you know how to do it by feel also. My good friend David Spaulding, gunfighting mentor to many, likes to drop his firing side elbow to his body to anchor the gun so it indexes in the same place every time. Not a bad idea.

At the risk of being repetitive, the important time here is the time the gun is not available to you to instantly index and fire. It is the time the magazine or cylinder is out of the weapon. While world class competitors practice 4 hours a day to get down to that 1 second shot-to-shot reload, just about anybody can get to the point they can have an auto-pistol down for less than one second or a revolver for two if they do it smart and practice about 10 minutes a week.

I see a hand raised in the back. What if another attacker pops up when you have started to reload?

Yes! That is “the rub” as they say. A shooting competitor who can do that one second magazine change will be in a tight spot in that instance since he dumps his magazine about the same time he reaches for a new one. You are not going to do that!

The tactician is constantly scanning and waits to dump the empty or near empty magazine until the new, full magazine is up to the gun and there is an at least apparent window in which to safely make the swap. If things don’t work and that window goes away, he simply shoots the new threat with what is left in the gun – We had two students do just that last year. Both report that had they dropped their magazine like a competitor would, before the next mag is ready, they would be dead now. We attempted to illustrate this in an accompanying video representing a new attacker appearing at an inconvenient time.

As with all of these columns there is no way I can cover all of the issues with any one aspect of a gunfight, and especially of your gunfight should fortune put you unavoidably in the middle of one. These are just a few of the things we need to think about when “time is of the essence”. I hope you take from it some food for thought.

Until next time, Happy Trails!

Jim

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Donetta Paschall January 25, 2017, 5:41 am

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  • Bill in LexingtonNC January 19, 2014, 3:59 am

    I am a tyro. The only thing I am certain of is that everything I can learn before the range goes two way is only half of what I stand to learn after it does.

    I appreciate any positive input I can get but, at 61 years old, I am extremely dismissive of chest thumping. And Muhjesbude, that is almost 100% of your comment. It sounds like you may have a lot of experience though, so how about teaching rather than bragging? This ain’t the playground.

    I really couldn’t understand what you meant by “So if you knew you hit them and it wasn’t CNS, then even a few seconds of running for cover looks like a complete miss.”

    Moreover, #3,4,and 5 of your bulleted list are simply not part of defensive shooting in the civilian world. They probably count in combat, but we civilians are not allowed to ambush, attack or bring sustained firepower to the game. We are carrying pistols … and usually only one … and generally have 30 rounds or less to bring matters to a close. Accuracy, speed and cover are pretty much all we have to work with … or are you suggesting that a miss with a .45 beats a hit with a 9?

    I think Higginbotham already covered that. A hit with a .22 beats a miss with anything.

    A hit with .22 draws blood. A miss with a .50 cal simply draws fire.

    I’m not advocating carrying a .22 … I’m advocating hitting with whatever you have available … a bullet, a bat, a bumper — they’ll all have more effect than a miss with a pocket cannon. “Firepower” is only useful if you can put it on target in time. So can the crap that accuracy, speed and cover are less important than firepower. If you can’t get all that firepower on target in a hurry, save one for yourself.

    If I can get a head or neck shot, I’m going to take it. I reason that if the head is moving fast, so is pretty much everything else. So if I can’t get that head or neck shot, I plan to just shoot whatever is sticking out until everything stops moving or I run out of ammunition.

    Bill

  • Muhjesbude August 26, 2013, 2:17 pm

    Yes, there are a lot of good tips and points. With all the extensive expert experience here, I feel my modest input here won’t spill much blood compared to the others with my having only a handful of police shootouts and only a few dozens of psycho explosive hand to hand CQB with weapons while working undercover, or as a high risk executive body guard. Or my early weaning days as a Spec Ops jungle warfare instructor, (after three ugly tours in Nam), I still have points of agreements and disagreements with both Jim and Steven that seem to be ‘missed’ in the greater scope of things.

    Winning in a spontaneous shootout such as the average patrolman or citizen may be confronted with has a lot more to do with mindset, mental training, and total ingrained experience of actual combat fighting, rather than high levels of accuracy, speed shooting, mag swaping, or otherwise.

    This is because your mind automatically becomes your ultimate weapon in such incidents. If you have not trained it, and kept it well oiled and smooth under stress, and maximized your awareness apprehension to where you immediately ‘see’ things that average people don’t, in a human environment, then all your other ‘range’ training is marginalized, at best, and could even get you killed. For instance, when you are too ‘rote-ly’ trained to attempt a reload under psycho stress, standing in the same spot you were just shooting from, instead of other alternatives like falling back or down for cover first. I’ve never seen a gunfight situation where diving out of line of fire couldn’t be accomplished in the same time as a reload IN the line of fire.

    While my skill level is enough to compete, Mr. Cline would certainly embarrass me in formal tournament competition, if you dropped both of us in-lets say, on opposite edges of a ten acre square heavily wooded and rolling forest armed and ammoed up equally, and one knife, maybe. He might be in for a little ‘sticker shock’ at the outcome of that match. Due mainly to my inordinately diverse mastering of various fighting and combat skills over the decades. Plus, I’m probably in better physical condition. Which, whether you arm chair gunfighters in denial want to realize or not, comes into serious ‘time’ and duration play, and in the real world ranks right up there after the ‘combat mentality’.

    But I agree with Mr. Cline that practice is essential and a priority, even over the type or caliber of gun.
    I was fortunate to be a judo student as a teenager and golden gloves fighter, and then went on to black belt level martial arts competition and weapons training and developed an advanced discipline level for muscle memory training. Becoming a competently skilled gun fighter requires a certain basic level of training and practice. Without it, you are no better off than the one box of ammo a year shooter. Believe it or not back in the days we had cops who only practiced when the mandatory yearly proficiency test was given by the department! LOL.

    It’s much more complicated and Jim and the others here said it well. But if you are a serious practitioner and train a lot, please humor an old warrior and heed the following immutable aphorisms, instead of armchair mythology:

    1. You can’t lose a gunfight you don’t get into.
    2. Being quick or fast also applies to running in the opposite direction, or at least to cover.
    3. If you are not successfully attacking from jump, you are closer to defending every second thereafter.
    4. Ambush is the best advantage.
    5. Superior firepower trumps accuracy, speed, and cover.
    6. Never fight to win, fight only to kill.
    7 .Deadly force is not about winning, its about who is left.

    I do agree with Jim about the myths of center mass. It’s the real reason all those Arab enemy fighters didn’t go down right away as the soldiers complained about. It wasn’t the ‘ineffectiveness’ of the .223. It also happened with 7.62 rounds. Besides the fact they were on drugs. So if you knew you hit them and it wasn’t CNS, then even a few seconds of running for cover looks like a complete miss. But i disagree on the head hits as primary, especially at close range. Even a glance off has enough concussive power to at least temporarily stun, which is a tremendous follow up advantage. My personal CQB drill is opposite of many. I double T to the face, and then unload down from there. And i do it instinctively, by the way, which i agree with KBsacto that this is a madatory skill to master.

  • KBSacto July 15, 2013, 3:43 pm

    There is a lot of good commentary here, and all of it should be taken in mind. Considering the author’s comment that one cannot prepare for any and all scenarios, practicing at any level will improve one’s abilities. This article and the following commentary provided me with additional insights I would not have thought of. I think that is where the value resides: getting people to think about how to prepare then taking steps to do so. And practice (i.e., any practice) improves preparedness and skill. I would like to add some input my father in law gave me. He liked to practice defense shooting with his handgun held in front of his torso. He said that for close encounters (i.e., 5-10 feet) he could repeatedly put 5 rounds in a 5 inch group, all without aiming. I would suggest that this intuitive shooting be added to anyone’s defense routine. In all, great article.

  • Robin 'Roblimo' Miller July 15, 2013, 4:13 am

    Years ago, when I drove a cab (mostly at nght) in Baltimore, I would go to the range and practice drawing my discreet little Grendel .380 out of the change pouch on the left side of my belt while sitting in a chair, and firing it left-handed at a target 4 -8 feet behind me. People thought I was crazy until I explained what I did for a living.

    I also practiced shooting left and right, as in out either from door or window. And the usual two-handed stances, which I never, ever, not once had time to use in real life.

  • Steven Cline May 16, 2012, 11:36 pm

    “DVC” are at the foundation of the United States Practical Shooting Association= Col. Cooper was the first President of IPSC (the international organization of which USPSA a sub org). And I take issue with the ideas, “Don’t practice the way you would for a competition,” and “1/10 of a second doesn’t matter of the street” and observations on speedy reloads.

    Of course I practice for the street as I would for competition- by being as fast and as accurate as I can be. For the life of me I can’t figure out how being so well conditioned with your gun that almost everything is rote is some how a detriment. Also, in competition I practice making a plan and executing it. Freestyle. My decisions. Guess what you’ll be doing in a gun-fight? Quickly making a plan and executing it. I practice for compeition by constantly monitoring my performance: did I see a sight picture? How was my trigger press? Where am I at in my plan. Hell, if I can plan out a complicated stage, how much more ready am I for a one, two, or even three person attack? But, oh no, don’t practice like you would for competition. At ever competition I attend on all but one stage my first shot requires me to be some place else for the first shot from where the stage began. Sound familiar? It’s called getting of the X by some. Most matches require me shoot around barricades just like cover, and it the tactical engagement of first seen first shot is also the fastest. But, alas, because it’s competition- it’s a skill that won’t save my life. So I’ll throw all that speed, accuracy, and mental conditioning to think when shooting out the window because I did it furtherance of my competition performance.

    In the same article we have a picture of Mr. Higginbotham next to his target, 5 shots in 1.03 seconds on the move. I was shooting this back when I was a B class shooter. Then the author sets a benchmark of 4 or 5 shots per second. That would be splits in the 1/10ths of the second for the mathematically challenged. So, of course .2 seconds matters. If you give me or Mr. Higginbotham .2 seconds in the otherwise equal gun fight it means we’ve shot you not once but twice before you’ve shot us, and the chances you will even get that shot off have just become exceedingly rare.

    Finally, in the chicken little paranoid world of defensive pistol craft the arguments are always based on plan for the worst. It won’t be one guy, it will be three, it won’t be three, it’ll be seven. You’ll be blindsided and knocked to the ground, behind the power curve. It’s inherent to the “what ifs,” You saw it above; a weak, conveniently contrived argument that the gamer is someone how going to be at a disadvantage when you drops that mag as he reaches for the replentishing mags because THAT will be when the here-to-for additional bad guy presents himself to kill you after the stacator near maching gun rapid fire by the gamer which splattered the alpha-male predator didn’t scare him off. Remember those tenths of seconds don’t matter… Let us ignore our favorite world of worst case and most creative what if thinking when it comes to reloading. Uh, how about not. Let’s assume the worst with that as well and practice for a gun run dry while having no cover since we won’t be dictating the location of the attack, the attacker will. And let’s make a speed or emergency reload just as important in our training regime as the tacticool reload. As we plan to shoot until the threat has stopped, we must recognize that we just increased the chances we’ll run the gun dry. While I test for my reloading speed, I pracitce for competition in just getting the reload done- slow is smooth, smooth is fast. That compeition practice will probably save my life by training me to just reload the gun should I need to reload the gun.

    Yes, I’m a competitive shooter, a “gamer;” I’m also former Army officer and Deputy Sheriff. I wish I had been this good with a gun when I carried one on the job. And, every highly skilled USPSA shooter I know who is also an LEO has the same jaded view of the shooting skills of their fellow LEO. Some of you may mock the gamer, but deep down, you know your shooting skills are second rate, and your subconcious mind knows it as well. It’s why some of you have that dream. You know the one- where the gun fires but the bad guy doesn’t stop. The trigger feels like it’s got a 2 ton pull, or the bullet dribbles out the gun. Its your subconcious telling you to go practice more. I say go practice like a gamer: lots of variation in position, order and placement of targets, lots or draws, lots or reloads, through in some malfunction drills and some ducks-in-a-row. You might just be ready to survive the gun-fight you don’t want to be in.

    One afternoon I went and shot the triple-nickle. DId it not just once or thrice, but 8 times in an outing. Meeting that LEO standard was a yawn… because I practice for competition. Putting the skill to a “gun-fighters” test just wasn’t all that much of a challenge.

    So, let a non-competitor define practicing for compeition or listen to one whose walked both sides of the line. Practicing for competition won’t get ya killed, rather, it will probably save your life.

    • Jim July 17, 2013, 10:17 am

      Mr. Cline;

      Thank you for your response, and thank you for addressing points rather than personalities.

      I dislike talking a lot about myself as I think I am a poor writer and I will be misunderstood. So please do not think it as boastful, but addressing your last point, when I say that I founded the first IPSC Club in my state (and indeed directed ormal “practical” shooting matches before the Columbia Conference and the founding of IPSC. I was there at the “revolt” in 1980 when Jeff Cooper left the U.S. Region of IPSC (shortly before USPSA was founded). I also founded the first IDPA club in my state. In addition I designed 95% of the course of fire for the 1999 IDPA National Championship (Ken Hackathorn and I collaborated on one stage that was basically his idea) and about 1/3 of the 2000 IDPA Championship (in which I was awarded the “most accurate shooter” title – that is not a trophy position, just one they mention in the results).

      The IPSC league (it covered two states) dropped out of IPSC in 1982 but continues to this day (though I left the Presidency in 1995). The IDPA club is no longer in existence, ending in 2001 when I got “drafted”.

      I am not unfamiliar with competition but for the last 12 years I have trained people who actually go in harms way (over 14,000 man years of combat zone tours with several thousand individual gunfights having taken place – in addition to training several law enforcement agencies, with that training featured in the FBI bulletin).

      I say this not in order to intimate that the opinions of others do not matter – they do – but to say that I have considered quite a bit of varied background when I post these admittedly clumsy efforts at sharing information.

      Thank you again, and my God bless.

      Jim H.

  • david May 15, 2012, 9:16 am

    Good heads up, always be aware of what can happen and the well being of your family

  • MAT SWADI AWI May 15, 2012, 2:19 am

    Good article and as a refresher. Whatever it is, common sense and cool head should prevail when it comes to emergency withdrawal of guns for life saving

  • James Riley May 14, 2012, 12:40 pm

    A wake up call for all those like my self, that have only scratched the surface when it comes down to a life or death situation.I for one plan to be better prepared. thank You

  • Ryan Kephart May 14, 2012, 11:04 am

    Good article – common sense and cool heads always prevail.

  • Jerry May 14, 2012, 10:13 am

    The best advice is that which works ! Clear thinking, focus, and practice, make the day. Great article !!!!!

  • Hugh Williamson May 14, 2012, 10:05 am

    A very good discussion. I would add that a good laser sight on a handgun, kept with a fresh battery, has the potential to be very helpful in an emergency. At the very close ranges mentioned in the article, a good laser sight is usually visible enough on the target to “make instead of break” your performance, even in reasonably bright daylight. I think the critical factor is having a sight that that turns on wholly “automatically,” when your hand engages the grip. A sight you have to turn on with an additional motion, and therefore an additional thinking process in the heat of the instant, will probably be of much less value. If one can see the laser dot on the target, one can fire with much better effect when holding the gun at any angle or position, instead of needing to have the mechanical sights on the gun aligned with one’s eyes and then with the target. Personally I favor Crimson Trace grip-activated laser sights because for me at least, my trigger finger activates the sight wholly reliably. I will add my “one-line” summery thought. “The less you have to think about in the heat of the instant, the faster you can think!” There may well be other equally good brands, but I have a Crimson Trace on all my self-defense handguns. I prefer to invest in fewer handguns, and invest additional money in laser sights. Another “one-liner” might be, ” You are (very probably) only going to use one gun in any one situation, so spend the money to make that gun the most effective “overall package” you can. Technology is no substitute for mind-set and practice, but it still can be very helpful!

  • Mike May 14, 2012, 9:15 am

    Excellent article. I am a police officer and this is the very same stuff our range crew keep training when we go to the range. Everything you have said applies! Nice job!

  • Fran Dobscha April 30, 2012, 3:35 pm

    Jim —

    Good article. Your take-away reminds me of the old joke about the two hikers who run into a bear on the trail,and argue about whether they can outrun the beast. The punch line, of course, is “I don’t have to be faster than the bear, I just have to be faster than you!”

    I think sometimes we get so caught up in data we forget about logic. Thanks for the reminder that common sense rules.

    — Fran

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